Review of “Show Your Work!”

 I saw a copy of Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered by Austin Kleon in FedEx while printing out the notes on my novel that my editor had sent me and it felt like serendipity. This combined with my just having reviewed notes that I’d taken following a series of job interviews where I learned that the question most asked of me is: “What is your creative process?”

I think for any sort of creative oriented position one ought to be able to clearly explicate one’s creative process, however so much depends on what’s being creative.


In short, the Ten Commandments to sharing like an artist are as follows:

You Don’t Have To Be A Genius.
Think Process, Not Product.
Share Something Small Every Day.
Open Up Your Cabinet Of Curiosities.
Tell Good Stories.
Teach What You Know.
Don’t Turn Into Human Spam.
Learn To Take A Punch.
Sell Out.
Stick Around.

In length, the 202 pages of the book expand on these ideas in a compelling manner. That there are a number of insightful quotes by successful creatives to help drive this home along with a number of examples. One of the aspects of the book that I particularly liked was how the excessive focus on only a few elements of the creative process can help lead to a failure to live up to one’s potential. Being aware of this aspects and acting in accordance with it unleashes a lot of creative possibilities.

Inside book image from Show Your Work

For myself, after reading this book I decided to start sharing some of my process about creating Unraveling rather than commenting on a number of images related to the story as well as providing background information along the lines of a Cambridge Companion to Literature. Sharing this process allows one to get greater fellowship, feedback or even patronage.

Two of my favorite concepts the book delves into is the idea of “scenius” and of creation as curation. Regarding the former, which Kleon states originates from Brian Eno, it’s pointed out that it is only through interacting with many people that a fertile “ecology of talent” is created. This can be in the form of consuming a variety of works but is mores evident in the interactions over the internet and in person wherein ideas get flushed out, aesthetic choices get analyzed and critiqued, and those that are also enthusiastic about what you are share in their joy over the exchange of work. When I think of the latter, curation as creation, in relation to my own work I recognize this as a direct mirror of my own process. Unraveling is unashamedly influenced by a number of novels, television series, movies thatI’ve read as well as non-fiction material from the newspapers, academic tomes and other sources.

Part of the reason why I was attracted to getting an Experimental Humanities degree at NYU was indeed a reaction to the perspective that the various subjects in school ought to be studied in isolation from one another. This does not mean I think that there ought to be no specialization, but that at a number of levels it’s important to recognize the totality of human knowledge and the benefits that accrue if not in the academic field than in life in general by being more of a generalist.

Inside Image from Show Your Work Related to Sharing Process
Inside Image from Show Your Work Related to Sharing Process

I got a little off topic there so then let me say in closing that I highly recommend this book as while it’s not pathbreaking contribution to the various DIY Inspiration/Creative Self Help books it’s a very timely and well written work that I think will become a touchstone for a number of creatives, like myself, who see in these types of mass-market tomes a type of professional/personal development.

Watch the trailer for the book below:

Show Your Work! Book Trailer from Austin Kleon on Vimeo.